Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

DownsideUpDesigner goes AWOL


So that you, my loyal readers, wont think that I’ve dropped off the face of the planet I wanted to let you know that I’m away from the ‘furt for the next week.

The weekend will be spent soaking up Rodchenko, Courbusier and a few drinks with mates in London. Next week, of course, will be all about the Geneva Motor Show.

After this brief interlude the DownsideUpDesigner should be back in full swing, hopefully with some incisive commentary on what I saw at Geneva and how it all fits into the rapidly evolving big picture of automotive design.

In the meantime I commend you to read a fabulous article on the legacy of Chris Bangle, written by Sam Livingstone, over at Car Design News. He successfully elucidates why I, and many other young designers, think that Chris has done more for the industry than any other designer in recent history.

Category: Blog


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  1. Massimo says:

    “elucidates why I, and many other young designers, think that Chris has done more for the industry than any other designer in recent history”.

    Well yes, and that is exactly the point, why young designer love him so much, and pro and high managers really don’t, to say the least. It is maybe because young guys at school and Uni, like to feel as they are free dragon, ready to challenge anything and everything, or maybe because if they do something very ugly they have the excuse “well CB and BMW did something even more ugly, but was successful”.

    Maybe so. Maybe not. Now that he is out, how long the bangle style generation will go on. Will we discover that this was just fashion: done, seen, assimilated, forgotten (eventually remember in the book). Did he really change automotive design?

    So if we want to analyze where everything started, was with the fact the he wanted to change the proportion of BMW flagship cars. He felt that 3 5 and 7 were just scaled version of each other. So he needed a change. But did he succeed?

    Well no. Proportion of the 3 (E90) and the 7 (E65) are between the worst ever seen. And do we want to talk about the new generated 1 series. Or the back end of the 6. They are all car that start to have a minimum of sense only if you put them under 20″ wheels, (but honestly in that case nearly everything start to get sense).

    We could go on analyzing X3, X5, X6 and next X1,
    and result would be similar.
    In future we will see recently presented PAS 5 and PAS 3. Here again in all of them, with possibly the exception of the X5 E53, proportionally there are so many fault. If you don’t believe me confront lateral view of PAS 5 with X6.

    So, maybe then he invented the surfaces of BMW cars, “the flame surface”, the concave stuff. No, neither, Italians were doing that stuff in the 60’s and much better, (where ultimately he took his inspiration, in his 12 year in Italy surrounded by art and in the Turin past know-how). Since in his car there are so much more cm square to cover in every direction X,Y and Z normal surfaces would not work, because since the area to cover was/is bigger; normal surfaces would have become boring very easily. So let’s go concave, let’s create some movement. Yes, let’s go, but where. Once again, if we put everything together; there is very little that works together. And that is because controlling a concave surface it is much more difficult that control a convex one, and in car industry if you keep doing the same surface for over 6 months, you are going to deliver the car in 10 12 years, time that automotive industry doesn’t have.

    So on the negative side what to add then, yes, there is still something; the I-Drive the most hated control feature ever had in any car.

    So yes, he changed, but was it for the good?
    He messed up a brand even if until very recently with good commercial result, he sacrifice the whole BMW culture, many may still recall huge fight at the board room. And now that he is off, even at BMW design they start to get away with his technique.

    So was it real glory? It is for posterity to judge.

    Oh, one thing, if you have read up to here you will start to wonder, ok he did some rubbish, but hey did he do only wrong, bad, ugly and mistaken?

    No, he didn’t.

    That’s why even today after 5 years the 5 series remain the best exterior surface treatment ever executed in automotive industry.

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© Andrew Philip Artois Smith and DownsideUpDesign, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew/Drew Smith and DownsideUpDesign with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.